June 19, 2011

Responding To Trials With A Christian Mind - Part Four

Preacher: Randy Smith Series: James Scripture: James 1:9–18


Responding To Trials With A Christian Mind-Part Four

James 1:9-18
Sunday, June 19, 2011
Pastor Randy Smith

With the brief time I have this morning I bring to an end our series on trials. But though the teaching is done for now, I pray these lessons will continue to live in your heart. Your comments and growth throughout this series have been inspiring!

May you remember that you can have deep-seated joy even in the worst of situations. May you remember that God brings trials to push you toward greater Christlikeness. May you remember that God only permits in your life what He knows you can handle. May you remember that God will provide the necessary faith and wisdom and encouragement to see you emerge from the trial victoriously. And may you remember that your pain can produce positive results if you respond to trials according to God's directives!

The formula? Faith in the character of God. Trust in the promises of Scripture. Desire to grow in God's image and deepen your relationship with Him. This unknown poet got it right:

Until I learned to trust,
I did not learn to pray,
And I did not learn to fully trust
Till sorrows came my way.
Until I felt my weakness,
His strength I never knew,
Nor dreamed till I was stricken
That He would see me through.
Who deepest drinks of sorrow
Drinks deepest too of grace,
He sends the storm so He Himself,
Can be our hiding place.
His heart that seeks our highest good
Knows well when things annoy,
We would not long for heaven
If earth held only joy.

Someone once said, "Mountaintops are for views and inspiration, but fruit is grown in the valleys." It's not always about having what we think we want, but it is about God giving us what He knows we need and what we should learn to want a whole lot more.

For the past three weeks we covered verses 9-15. In that section we learned three specifics as it relates to trials.

1. MONEY AS GOD SEES IT (review - verses 9-11)

First we observed money opens the portal to many trials. For the Christian, our self-worth must never be determined by our net-worth. Many have failed because they fail to see their wealth (or lack of it) through the eyes of God. Bottom line: all of our money belongs ultimately to God and if our use of money is leading us toward humility (Jas. 1:9, 10), we are assured that we are proceeding on the right track. If our money is leading to pride or worthlessness, our ship has veered off course.

2. REMAIN UNDER THE WEIGHT (review - verse 12)

Second, we observed in verse 12 that we are called to persevere in the midst of the trial. Our natural tendency is to run from the trial or deaden the pain with ungodly measures that will only bring additional destruction. But if we know God is working in us through the trial, it is only logical that we will "hupomeno," remain under the weight until God has perfected His purposes. Therefore, the sins of fear and worry and self-pity and complaining indicate a lack of submission and will shield God's positive results only to bring negative ones.

3. KNOWING WHOM TO BLAME (verses 13-15)

Third, we learned last week that inherent in every trial is temptation. The trial comes from God and is not evil, but with each trial is an additional temptation to sin. And James tells us that this desire to sin comes not from without but from within each of us. Regardless of the degree or nature of our trial, the deceptive attractiveness of these temptations is powerful.

Forget the big trials for now; let me provide an example of what I am talking about from one of those little trials we experience throughout the day.

The kids want pizza for dinner. So you break down and dish out 30 bucks for a couple nice pies. As you open the boxes you expect them to be excited and thankful, but there is six-year-old Sammy pouting in his chair. You ask him what's wrong, and he begins whining that he wanted pineapple on his pizza. At this point you have just entered a mini-trial. Your faith is being tested and the temptation toward anger and impatience and self-pity is instant. Which way will you go in this trial? Will you lose it or will you respond in a God honoring way?

My friends, last week I also provided for you ten ways to overcome sin. Please visit that list frequently and live by those principles. Learn to detect sin and turn from it. But it all must start with having our eyes so focused on Christ that we see sin for what it really is: ugliness, pain and death.

Don't fall for sin's deceptive nature. It is candy-coated poison that looks appealing on the outside. Even when we know what is right, when we consider the loving commands God has given us in the Bible, James told us in verse 14 that we are easily "enticed by [our] own lust." Remember the metaphor is of a fish being led to its death by the deception of a baited hook. The attractiveness of sin lures our desires to override our mind. Eventually the feelings become so strong that our will is engaged to pursue the sin. As James said in verse 15 "and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death."

In Genesis 4 Cain experienced a trial of his own. Remember this one? God accepted the sacrifice of his brother (Abel), but had no regard for Cain's sacrifice (Gen. 4:4-5). The Bible says Cain gave way to the temptation and was overtaken with anger. His countenance fell (Gen. 4:5). Remember God's response? In a nutshell - you better get yourself right, Cain! You are in a position of danger! "Sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it" (Gen. 4:7).

Which way are we going in our trials? Are we overcoming the temptations and emerging more Christlike, or are we giving into the temptations and walking away more like the enemies of God? All trials will change you negatively or positively. Are they making you bitter or better? Are they making you more like Satan or more like Christ? It has been said, "The same boiling water that softens a carrot can also harden an egg."

4. THE SOURCE OF ALL GOOD GIFTS (verses 16-18)

Let's move to the new material found in verses 16-18, the final specific thought as it relates to trials. We are calling this one, "The Source of All Good Gifts," and it is obviously in reference to God.

Verse 16, "Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren."

As we learned already, when going though difficult trials, it is easy to act like little Sammy with the pineapple pizza. We have a tendency to whine, complain and blame the world for our problems. We see ourselves in rose-colored glasses and find fault with the world around us. We blame the environment in which we were raised. We blame our brains for their inability to function properly. We blame our spouses, kids, friends, neighborhood, co-workers and church. We blame the weather, the car, the alarm clock, the dog next door and the absence of coffee. We blame the devil. We even blame God. We blame God for the temptation, which James said in verse 13 is untrue, or we blame God for having a defect in His character. For if He could have prevented the trial and He didn't, that makes Him unloving. And if we wanted us to avoid the trial, but was unable to overcome the forces of evil, well, that makes Him powerless. Bad thinking! We've got it all reversed!

Why do you think James says in verse 16, "Do not be deceived?"

We already learned that evil comes from outside God. Ultimately it comes from within us (Jas. 1:14). On the contrary nothing but God's blessing are directed toward His children. And the sooner we can start seeing these blessings, especially when in the midst of the trials, the sooner we will appreciate this truth. And the sooner we can trust God for His infinite goodness and desire to see nothing but the best in the lives of His children, the sooner we will begin to blossom in our walk with Him.

Look at verse 17, "Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow."

The world has it so backwards. They take credit for anything good and blame God for any misfortune. Don't act like them, Christian! See the goodness of God. Begin to appreciate the blessings He showers in your life. Repent from the anger. Flow with praise. Only then will God be glorified and your joy made complete!

James describes God in verse 17 as "the Father of lights." This was a Jewish title referring to God as Creator, the Giver of light in the heavenly places (Gen. 1:14-18). Psalm 19:1, "The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands." The stars, the sun the moon are all perpetual displays of God's goodness, but as verse 17 indicates, with God, unlike these stellar objects of creation, there is "no variation or shifting shadow." Due to our atmosphere and the rotation of the earth we can't always count on the sun to shine, but we can always count on the Father to shine His grace in our lives. 1 John 1:5, "God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all." No changes. No shadows. Nothing but God's very best customized in our lives beaming down upon us for our very best.

And if creation is not enough to convince you of God's goodness, consider the re-creation He has accomplished in your life. Let's go from the macrocosm of the universe to the microcosm of your own spiritual existence. Verse 18, "In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures."

The Bible teaches that while you were dead in your sins (Eph. 2:1), God gave you the desire and ability to trust Him for salvation. He changed your heart. He brought the saving message of Jesus Christ and His sacrificial death on the cross for sinners to your life. He gave you faith to believe that message. He gave you a new heart. He saved you entirely as a work of His grace. As James said, "He brought [you] forth and it was done by the "exercise of His will"(cf. Jn. 1:12-13; Eph. 1:5). And the agent God used in this process was not emotional stories or silly gimmicks or sly manipulation, but rather "the word of truth" (cf. Rom. 10:17; 1 Pet. 1:23).

All of this is James' way of saying don't blame God for your sin. Rather thank Him for the righteousness He credited to your account. God did not entice you to "conceive" sin which brings forth death, but rather brought you forth by the Gospel to eternal life. God is not bringing these trials to destroy you; rather He is bringing these trials for your good, a goodness which He has already proven to you by the world He created and the salvation He has granted. If God spoke the world into existence and raised you from your spiritual death, is helping you in your trial too difficult for Him? The bottom line in all that James is saying in verses 1-18 is this: are you trusting God's goodness in the midst of your trials?

So the Taylor family is enjoying the first few hours of their flight. They have anticipated this vacation for years. However, much to their surprise, the flight attendant begins to pass out small backpacks to all the passengers. The distribution is given with some instructions. Tracy listens, but Billy tunes her out, as he is more interested in checking for updates on the Red Sox game. Tracy puts her pack on, and Billy does the same. Within fifteen minutes Billy is starting to get uncomfortable. His lower back starts aching. The straps are chaffing on his shoulders. And sweat is beginning to drip from his forehead. He looks over at his wife bearing the same trial, but she is smiling offering not a word of complaint. You see, the instructions that Billy missed was the notification that the fuel tank was leaking and that the plane was going down in 60 minutes. On their backs were parachutes that would provide them a great chance of survival.

It all comes down to perspective. Trials are never pleasant, but understanding by faith the good outcome promised to all believers enables us to persevere, counting our trials all joy because we are keeping our eyes upon the Lord.

other sermons in this series

Feb 5


Sheep Shepherding Sheep

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: James 5:19 Series: James

Jan 29


Let's Close With Prayer

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: James 5:13–18 Series: James

Jan 15


To Tell You The Truth

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: James 5:12 Series: James